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Opposites DO Attract: Coffee Naps, The Bulletproof Power Nap, Explained

By: Dave Asprey

The first time I ever heard about coffee napping was way back when I launched the original design of the “caffeine: my drug of choice” t-shirt you may now recognize.  We sold it online in the earliest days of the internet.

My colleagues and I used to talk about coffee naps a lot, so it’s amazing how so many people still haven’t heard of them today.  A lot has happened since then, but coffee naps are still an awesome, underappreciated way to get a midday energy boost.

I don’t coffee nap often because I rarely nap, period, but when I do?  I coffee nap!

They’re best for when you’re traveling or jet lagged for a quick burst of rejuvenation.

 

Coffee Naps 101

Yep, you read that right: two of the most Bulletproof things, sleep and coffee go hand in hand to boost your performance when you use them together correctly.

Drinking a cup of coffee followed by a 20-minute rest can give you an effective siesta that fuels your afternoon.  Some call it a coffee nap; we call it a Bulletproof Power Nap 🙂

Sound crazy or even counter-intuitive? After all, we drink caffeine for alertness, not to sleep. Here’s how it works and the science behind it.

 

Coffee Naps: Powered By Science 

A quick coffee nap is an incredible way to boost energy and productivity during your day because of what goes on in your brain as it’s happening.

When you drink caffeine, it passes to your small intestine and gets absorbed into your bloodstream. It then kickstarts your brain chemistry by blocking receptors normally filled by similar energy transferring molecules of Adenosine, a chemical compound in your brain known for causing drowsiness.

Adenosine makes you feel sleepy by slowing down your brain’s nerve cell activity; so when caffeine binds to your receptors instead of Adenosine, the reverse happens…

When caffeine takes Adenosine’s place in the receptors, it has the opposite effect; the nerve cells speed up giving us that jolt of caffeine energy and focus.[1]

 

So, what does any of that have to do with a 20-minute power nap?

The brilliance of the coffee nap is that sleep naturally clears Adenosine from your brain!

From the moment you drink your coffee to the moment you metabolize it is about 20 minutes of pure opportunity to not only rest, but to open up those Adenosine receptors to the caffeine you just imbibed.[2]

It’s like rolling out a welcome mat just for your coffee.  What could be better?

 

What Kind of Nap Works?  What If I’m Not Good At Napping?

You don’t have to fall into a deep sleep for a coffee nap to work. Half-sleep or “nonsleep dozing” has proven to be just as effective.[3]

It’s important not to sleep any longer than 20 minutes as you can fall into sleep inertia, which is harder to wake from.  You also need to be awake when that caffeine reaches your brain.[4]

 

Why Do Coffee Naps Work So Well?

Scientists have directly observed the behavioral and cognitive effectiveness of the coffee nap and say that it’s more productive than coffee or naps on their own[5-7].

In several UK studies, researchers found that when subjects took a 15 minute coffee nap, they scored higher on a driving simulator test.

In Japan, scientists founds their subjects scored higher on memory tests after coffee naps.  Subjects also claimed they felt less tired.[5, 6, 7]

The coffee nap formula is pretty straightforward. Find a quite corner at work or home, and give it a try.

Maybe even explain it to your boss, so they know you’re upgrading your productivity.  Comment below with your results and any other napping hacks you’ve discovered!

 

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164566 Caffeine and Adenosine.
  2. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep Why Do We Sleep, Anyway, Harvard Medical School.
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9401427 Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap.
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12531174 Sleep Inertia.
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9401427 Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap.
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8936399 Counteracting driver sleepiness: effects of napping, caffeine, and placebo.
  7. http://www.clinph-journal.com/article/S1388-2457(03)00255-4/abstract The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime naps.